Jennifer Jalbert of Saco will be taking part in the virtual 180-mile Trek Across Maine, in memory of her father and other family members who have died of lung disease. Jalbert plans to ride over Father’s Day weekend, the dates the ride usually takes place. This year, participants can choose to ride when they like, through June 30. Courtesy Photo

SACO — Nearly every event that is happening this year is being conducted differently, because of COVID-19.

Even so, a Saco woman’s commitment to the 180-mile bicycle ride called Trek Across Maine remains strong.

Jennifer Jalbert, who has bicycled the Trek for the past five years, will be taking part in the virtual ride this year, pedaling on Father’s Day weekend, when the event traditionally takes place — though organizers of the virtual ride say participants can log miles through June 30. Jalbert plans to ride every mile, 60 miles a day, over the three- day time frame.

When she rides, she’ll be wearing a cross her late father, Jack W. Buzzell used to wear, along with his wedding ring. She’ll be carrying the dog tags worn by her late her father-in-law, Donald Jalbert.

Her father died in 2008, her father-in law in 1998, both of lung disease. Her grandmother, Rita Croker, also died of lung disease, and so Jalbert has an abiding commitment to the ride.

“I have a very personal connection to this event. It’s super meaningful to me,” said Jalbert.

Another factor that plays into the ride is Jalbert’s asthma, which became part of her life a few years ago. Still, she’s fit, and she trains for the ride, bicycling 17 miles to her job as general manager of Planet Fitness in Portland a couple of times a week, along with additional training. And even though spring flowers and trees are in bloom now, which tends to kick up her allergies and asthma, Jalbert said she carries her inhaler with her, at the ready if need be.

The American Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine is in its 36th year, and organizers have developed new ways for people to take part virtually now through June 30, using online mobile phone applications to track miles. The American Lung Association in Maine is also encouraging participants to post photos of their ride and screenshots of GPS devices in the Trek Across Maine Facebook Group.

Since 1985, the Trek Across Maine has raised more than $25 million for lung health — though funds raised for this year’s goal of $1.3 million are off from last year, at about $365,000 as of May 26. This year, funds from the event will go toward the American Lung Association’s efforts to fight COVID-19 said Kim Chamard, senior manager of development for the Trek Across Maine.

“Together, our goal now is to build on the momentum we have seen from our participants and supporters across the globe to fight COVID-19,” she said.

The American Lung Association has announced an initiative that includes plans to help expand clinical trials at the Airways Clinical Research Center, fund coronavirus awards and grants for preventative research, vaccines, antivirals and for future outbreak preparedness, among other initiatives.

Nearly 2,000 cyclists crossed the finish line in Brunswick in 2019.

An estimated 2,000 cyclists completed the 180-mile, 2019 Trek Across Maine. This year, the event is virtual and participants will log the miles the ride online. Among those takig part will be Jennifer Jalbert of Saco. Courtesy Photo

Jalbert aims to finish the ride, just as she has for the past five years.  She said she’s been talking to her past team mates, and has been mapping out her route. She plans to be in touch with a couple of friends, virtually, as she rides.

This year, she set up her bicycle in the basement, so she could train even when the weather is bad. She said other training is necessary, as well.

“When you’re on a bike for four to five hours, you use all of your body so it’s important to strengthen the whole body, lifting weights, walking on a treadmill, anything to strengthen the body besides being on the bike,” she said.

The Trek Across Maine isn’t about a race and time, it’s about completing the ride, she noted.

Jalbert said she’ll be ready, and is looking forward to the Father’s Day weekend, when she’ll do her 180 miles.

“I’ll feel that connection to my father,” she said. “I’m doing this for him.”

For more about the ride, go to: https://action.lung.org/site/TR/Cycle/ALANE_Northeast?pg=entry&fr_id=18638.

 

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